In the week leading up to Christmas, 55-year-old KB Ghodke’s life transforms from the dull routine of a sales clerk into the glamour of an adored celebrity.
For the past six years, Ghodke has been playing Santa Claus for shoppers at Akbarallys, a departmental store in Fountain in south Mumbai.
And despite the heavy costume weighing him down for hours, this is a role he would not give up for anything.
“I love laughing, playing with children and bringing a smile to every face that walks through the door,” said Ghodke, who has worked at the store for 32 years and was chosen to play Santa because of his jovial personality.
On Christmas Eve, Ghodke was busy handing out chocolates, masks, balloons and other goodies to more than 200 excited children who visited the store.
“Most children rush up to shake hands with me, some get scared, and older kids often ask me if I am real,” said Ghodke, who also plays the turbaned ‘Deepak Chacha’ at the store during Diwali. For the Chembur resident, these jobs mean a bonus of Rs 800 a day during the festive season.
“Because of the make-up, I can’t eat or drink all day, but it’s worth it,” he said. Richard Johnny, an advertising professional who has been Santa for his church youth group for four years, believes that Father Christmas is meant not just for kids but adults too.
“As Santa I visit every church-going family in the neighbourhood along with our carol singers, and we spread the Christmas spirit to all,” said Johnny (20), a member of Goregaon’s St. Thomas Church.
This week, while the choir sang carols in more than 150 houses in the parish, Johnny danced, clowned around and distributed chocolates among the children.
“Ironically, many children are scared of Santa, and for them I remove my mask to make them feel better,” said Johnny.